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Old 02-21-2015   #11
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1969
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 187
Dozens of wood frames built&used over 4-5 seasons back in the 70's/80's - the point of failure for all was the corners, and that almost always from being dropped on 'em or banged into something while loading/unloading. That said, we'd usually only bust up one or two every season, and easily replace whatever piece split... eventually made up some metal (3/16" steel) plate corners that protected and ended the damage, then alu pipe frames came on the scene.
Back when redwood was available and relatively affordable, that was wood of choice (2x6). Then just good 'ole doug fir, straight as possible, little tight knots were usually fine. Couple coats of Thompson's water seal, then as many coats of (thinned) spar varnish as you had the time to apply. We used plain old zinc-plated carriage bolts, cut donuts to cover the nuts rather than countersink as countersinking robs some of the strength from wood. Stainless doubtless better, but not poverty boating...
Oh, most important: place the bolts across the corner on diagonal, not in line with the corner. Rookie mistake...
Never saw a wood frame smashed on the 'riv, but heard tales of the wall at Skull doing that (right side run, low water) and occasionally somewhere else. Built my first frame on the banks of Grim Reaper state park with a brace and bit and saw, walked into town for the hardware, used an old piece of 4X4 oak for oarlock stand extensions, slapped the masterpiece on top of a UDISCO and took it down Cat in September, 1976. With a doberman and 2 kayaks... Saw a group from Boulder hiking in at Spanish Bottom with their kayaks, looked like something out of a movie, a dozen boats bobbing along atop heads/shoulders - those were when boats were FG, not plastic...
Good memories. The only disadvantage of wood is it's heavy and requires maintenance, otherwise will last you decades of only a few trips per year. Good luck!

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Old 02-21-2015   #12
The Box, ~
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 199
Holiday River Expeditions has been using wood frames commercially for decades and they still do. I would like to think they've got the bugs worked out by now. I would try to see what they're doing via pics or find one of their ex/current guides to give you a run down on their wood frames.


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Old 02-21-2015   #13
Westminster, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 524
Holiday frames are 2x6 with countersunk bolts like described here. The seats use a plywood table strapped to 2x4s that doubles as a backboard if needed.

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Old 02-21-2015   #14
thornton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1969
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 600
I flew us from Denver to the MF in 1981 or 1982 and used wood frames on our boats. Always worked for us, these wood frames must be six to eight years old at the time.
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Old 02-21-2015   #15
Redmond, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1973
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 1,031
The plywood as a seat/backboard is a great thought.

The frame has to still function even if the backboard is in use.
It could disappear with the patient and there you are.

So the backboard cannot be 'structural' to the raft.

It could be a table top without structural concerns.


Looking over the support pillar for the oarlocks I would still be wary of wood.
Even with old growth Doug Fir.

I read somewhere that the tall ships preferred DF or Western Larch for their masts.

I know nothing but lets get some input.

Strength can be in flexibility.
I'm gonna say DF rather than Oak or Hickory.

(Hickory kicked my azz on a Kitchen remodel last year.)
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Old 02-21-2015   #16
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Grand Junction, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1978
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 523
Listen to Schutzie. Keep it simple. 3 bolts per corner eliminates the need for corner bracing, etc. Go with 2 x 8 lumber and just use the bolt-on flat base oar stands from NRS or Recretec, etc. Will give many years of service. We had wood frames go 10+ years with falling apart like everyone worries about. Bolt on a tractor seat (if you want) and take off!
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Old 02-21-2015   #17
Redmond, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1973
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 1,031
Originally Posted by kengore View Post
I would stay away from the pressure treated and instead give it a coat or two of exterior latex paint.

In days of old the pirates used naval stores of tar. Made from Pine Pitch.

More recently its been MARINE SPAR VARNISH for decks on yachts/sailboats.
I've used it in wood trim around sinks/dining room on carpenter recommendation.


Difference Between Spar Varnish and Regular Varnish? - The Wood Whisperer

May want to lightly mix in some thinner on the first coat.
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Old 02-22-2015   #18
Westminster, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 524
Originally Posted by BilloutWest View Post
Looking over the support pillar for the oarlocks I would still be wary of wood.
Even with old growth Doug Fir.
I have a breakdown steel recretec frame with the bolt-on oar towers, I think they would be fine on a wood frame because they never flexed the loose joints of the breakdown frame.
Holiday wraps a piece of metal around a 2-high stack of 2x6 and has a oarlock receiver hole on the outside of that. You can see it in both pics above. The oarlock come out when the second boat gets stacked on top the first. It's bombproof, but the oarlock position on their frames is my biggest gripe when rowing, it's too inboard and low for the size boat and my rowing style. If you're not trying to stack fully loaded gear boats, a taller tower would be easy and nice.

There is a second 2x4 a little inboard of the main frame rail, and the water coolers sit on those. Having a solid attachment point for a water cooler is nice, and something I still haven't replicated well on my own boats.
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